At the better part of my ninth decade (and still counting), I’m still monitoring the acuity of my opinions about art as well as the opinions of those who are younger than I (at ninety-five years old, who isn’t younger than I!!). Either implicitly or explicitly, younger people than I tell me that my veneration for long since gone performing artists of the twentieth century is an adjunct to my age. They think I unconsciously edit my memory when I recall my experiences of that time in my life. They are abysmally incorrect. But my purpose here is not to critique performing artists but rather to highlight their existential contribution to Western Civilization.
At 1:00 a.m., I watch a television program titled, Classic Arts Theater, which features clips of classic films; or orchestras originally ‘live’ at renowned concert halls; or outdoor music and dance festivals in parks; or performed in world-class opera houses; or in magnificent churches; or ballets, once ‘live’ at the Bolshoi; or Teatro alla scala; or the Royal Opera House. (On a personal note, I’ve always regretted that the United States, with its piece of earth measuring at about 3,800,000 square miles, has only two world class opera houses; one based in San Francisco, the other in New York City, the Metropolitan Opera House.
On the other hand, there are first class opera houses in major cities scattered all over Europe, a continent within which Italy alone (measuring only at about 116,000 square miles of earth) has an opera house in Milan (La Scala) and opera houses in every major Italian city, including Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Sicily. (My grandfather did some masonry work on that opera house.)
When I watch Classic Arts Theater, performing artists filmed long ago arouse my intellect and stir my emotions. My soul oscillates between joy and sorrow. Joy, in response to clips of performers who were giants, super human, a phenomenon without parallel testimony…film facsimiles of their performances unequivocally confirm my judgment about their performances both then, when I attended some of those performances; and now despite those fading clips…amazing, breathtaking, inspiring. And sorrow now in the knowledge that it will never happen again…not just for me, but forever.